Fiction: ‘Hide-and-Seek’

50 - Hide-and-Seek
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She peers at him closely, her plump eyelids narrowing until her gaze is forced through two pale slits.

‘How do you feel?’ she asks, her voice carefully laid out before him, controlled and well-rehearsed.

‘Fine nurse,’ he replies, flashing a smile.

‘Any nausea?’

He shakes his head.

‘Do you feel anxious or depressed?’

‘Not at all.’

She waits for a long time before deciding to accept his answers to her same old questions. Her pen squiggles something in her little black notebook. He knows she is satisfied because she nods as she jots down her observation.

She thinks he’s improving.

But she doesn’t notice how carefully he has built up his walls and tinted his windows over the past few months. She doesn’t catch the flat lifeless tone he conceals in his voice. He appears so normal on the surface; so accommodating and predictable.

She turns and walks away.

He smiles at her retreating back.

Even with all her pills and injections, the group therapy followed by hours in isolation, that false smile always carved into her stony face, and her pen scribbling away in her dreaded notebook, she hasn’t been able to pry her way into his brain.

He leans back in his chair, watching the door close firmly behind her. There’s a solid click as she locks it. He can hear her check the handle once, no, twice, as if she doesn’t trust the lock to do its job.

He spits the little purple pill into the palm of his hand and presses it deep inside a hole in the cushion of his chair. It’s a tiny hole, with just a hint of foam poking out. But beyond that yellow protrusion are at least a dozen pills, some purple, and some pink.

He doesn’t feel fine.

But the pleasure of the lie swells inside him until the pain is little more than a pebble amidst the landslide. He feels like a child playing hide-and-seek. She always nearly discovers his hiding place, leaving him holding his breath as his heart thumps away in his chest, but then she walks on by without seeing him and he’s safe once more.

He breathes a sigh of relief.

She will never find him.

 ~ Ekaterina

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